When it comes to our digital marketing strategy, there is a tendency to operate with blinders on.
We sometimes view online and offline as two separate worlds that don’t intertwine. But that thinking is a mistake that is hurting your business. Offline opportunities present themselves everywhere and have the potential to launch your site to the next level.
One of the primary benefits of creating an offline strategy is it hits areas that your competitors are not looking. It’s a way to generate unique, powerful links to your site. Or bring a crop of new leads that are ripe for the taking.
I have spent 15 years working in the digital marketing space operating my own sites and consulting for clients. In that time, I’ve also had the opportunity to own and work alongside a number of traditional brick and mortar businesses. These include everything from doctors, to day care centres, to a doggy boutique I once owned. The lessons I’ve learned in those offline ventures has opened new marketing avenues that have greatly benefitted my online businesses.
A link from a respected charitable organisation carries a lot of weight (especially if your business is related). They have spent years acquiring links from authority sites ranging from news outlets to the government. Simply put, they can pump some serious juice into your backlink profile.
But these links don’t come looking for you. It can require picking up a phone and asking how you can work together. Maybe putting in some time as a volunteer. That effort can lead to a set of links that can be the foundation for a high ranking site.
And if those links don’t work, maybe the positive karma from doing something good will.
Get Some Positive Reviews
Online reviews can make or break a business. A Pew Research study found that a whopping 82 percent of adults read reviews or ratings before making their first purchase. But getting those happy customers to take a minute to write a review isn’t easy. You have to find different avenues to connect.
When selling a product online, add a note. This can be as simple as a business card inside that asks the customer to review your product. But don’t forget about those unhappy customers. Let them know how to contact you to solve their issue. This is an opportunity to stave off negative reviews.
For brick and mortar businesses, it’s vital to fill up your listing pages with 5 star reviews. Not only does it attract new customers, it even plays a role in your ranking on Google and Yelp.
The simplest way is to add a note at the end of their receipt. But for a more aggressive tactic, try texting. For service based businesses like dentists or physical therapists, a thank you text after their appointment is a nice touch. But it’s also a way to solicit a positive review.
Your text should provide a link to a page that asks them to rate your business. If they rate it positively, you’ll want to prominently display links to Google, Facebook, and any other review site of value. Now if they had a bad experience, you’ll want to make your contact information the focal point so that you can fix the situation before they write that nasty review.
Take note that local review sites each have their own guidelines you must abide by. Yelp for instance, doesn’t allow soliciting of reviews. So your wording will have to be vague. Google and Facebook are more lenient, but still have some policies that can get you in trouble.
Get Some Cool Swag
When I bought my first box of cigars online, the company threw in a cigar cutter. Emblazoned on the front was their logo, website, and phone number. I’ve used that device for years and coincidentally, ordered from that same store a dozen times.
The moral of the story is that you aren’t a household name like Amazon. Your online business will be quickly forgotten by the average consumer. So you need to find a way to fix that. And tossing in some swag with an order is a great way to keep your brand on their radar for the future.
Attend Trade Shows and Conventions
There’s a good chance your industry has trade shows or conventions popping up around the globe. Attending them is a great way to network and promote your brand.
Shake hands, pass out business cards (or that cool swag I just talked about), and make an impression on your industry. This may lead to valuable online opportunities. Or even a future speaking gig at an upcoming show. Which dovetails into our next strategy.
Become a Speaker
If you’ve had those nightmares where you’re speaking in front of a class in only your underwear, this might not be for you. But if you’ve got a penchant for public speaking, opportunity is knocking.
Speakers at industry events are always in demand. And if you can parlay your expertise into one of those gigs, it can mean a load of quality links coming to your website. There is more to this than linking to your site in the bio. You also have the opportunity to impress an audience member enough that they promote your work online. Or better yet, become a customer themselves.
Similar to the charity approach, you’ll want to find events or groups that are looking for sponsors. And the beauty here is that it can scale with your business. You don’t need to be sponsoring the next big festival to come to your city. It can be as simple as helping the local little league team buy some jerseys.
The primary goal here of course is links. So before making contact offline, be sure their website is linking out to their sponsors.
Another added benefit here is that it doubles as an advertisement. If you do end up sponsoring that little league team in town, offer up a 10% discount to your store to the parents. You might grab some online sales on top of that link.
There’s a reason Amazon plasters their logo all over their boxes. It’s free advertising when a neighbour spots that box being delivered to your porch. So as a small retailer, a uniquely designed box that stands out is a terrific way to draw attention to your online brand.
Don’t take my word for it, some nerdy scientists published a study back in 2014 that showed packaging is perceived to be part of the product. The contrast between your packaging and your generic competitors plays a large role in future buying behaviour.
Years ago I helped my golf instructor buddy build a site for his business. The template was simple and it didn’t require a ton of work. A couple colleagues of his noticed and asked if I could help them too.
Instead of tossing out a quote for the work, I found a way to make this mutually beneficial. I’d build out their sites and host it, in return for being able to control a “Sponsors” page on their site. They couldn’t be happier. A free site and hosting for them, and I was able to link out to a number of my sites. In the long run, those links were more valuable than the few hours of work I would have billed them for.
The lesson here is that your technical skills can be traded for things other than cash. Especially to those who operate primarily in the offline world. Maybe it’s offering free hosting in return for a link in the footer. Or they provide content for your site in return for technical support.
Join Your Chamber of Commerce
Did you know your local Chamber of Commerce accepts online businesses? Joining is a way to gain a strong link to your site and put potential customers at ease. The more connected you are to respected associations, the more professional your brand comes across online.
One of the problems we face online is the overlap in tactics with our competitors. Traditional digital marketing strategies creates an arms race where we all try to do the same thing but just better than the next guy. Inevitably, this gives the advantage to the larger, heavily funded companies.
That’s where offline marketing levels the playing field. It requires making contact with people and building relationships you can’t find online.
Above are just a few of the many tactics that can be implemented on your end. With some creativity and legwork, you will open doors that your competitors aren’t looking into. This will give you the advantage you need.